Europe’s COVID-19 immunization program is in crisis mode as existing supplies of available vaccines are critically low — just as many European nations are facing another wave of infections.
Spain on Wednesday became the first European country to partly suspend its immunization campaign due to a low supply of vaccines, despite having the third highest caseload in Europe. Local officials announced this week that the program in Madrid, the capital, will idle for two weeks.
“We need more doses and we need them now,” the city’s deputy regional president Ignacio Aguado told reporters. He later tweeted that if the region maintains its current vaccination rate, only 10% of Madrid residents will be inoculated by July.
Spain’s Catalonia region may also delay its immunization program.
“Tomorrow our fridges will be empty,” said Josep Maria Argimon, a health official in Catalonia, referring to their low supplies of vaccine.
Hemos tenido que suspender el suministro de nuevas primeras dosis, al menos, durante las dos próximas semanas por falta de vacunas.
Le pido a la ministra Darias que mueva tierra, mar y aire para conseguir más. A este ritmo, en julio solo el 10% de los madrileños estará vacunado. pic.twitter.com/gDh7R2vSxw
— Ignacio Aguado (@ignacioaguado) January 27, 2021
Several Spanish politicians and military officials are under fire for reportedly skipping the line to get their vaccine shots ahead of the country’s most vulnerable populations.
Researchers tracking the pandemic at Johns Hopkins University report that Spain has 2.67 million confirmed cases and 57,291 people have died.
’10 tough weeks’
Light supply in Germany has delayed the country’s vaccination program. Germany’s health minister said Thursday that he expects the country’s current shortage of coronavirus vaccines to continue into April.
“We will still have at least 10 tough weeks with a shortage of vaccine,” Jens Spahn tweeted.
The European Union’s vaccination effort trails other wealthy regions of the world, such as the U.S. and U.K. Smaller countries like Israel and the United Arab Emirates are outpacing the EU as well, according to Our World in Data.
In the meantime, the virus is not slowing despite officials’ efforts to mitigate the spread.
France has the second worst infection rate in Europe with more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. It sits behind the U.K. which has 3.7 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Government officials in France are considering further restrictions, as its strict 6 p.m. curfew has failed to slow the virus’s spread. The government is now considering restricting resident’s ability to travel outside of their home regions.
Tensions remain high throughout Europe after revelations that the sought-after deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech will be delayed.
Last week, AstraZeneca told the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, that it will ship fewer doses to the bloc than originally agreed upon. The news has shocked officials who are now demanding answers from the company.
NPR’s Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley contributed to this report.